networks for social sustainability

I have just published an article on migazin.de about networks and social sustainability. Networks are described as institutionalized platforms which encourage and enable exchange, interaction and all kinds of transfer. These networks can help us striving for social sustainability.

// An “uncle doctor substitute support system”

The socio-economic or ethnic background should not matter in a meritocratic society. But it does. There simply is a huge discrepancy between what is and what should. This is not socially sustainable. Social sustainability is one of the three pillars of sustainability – next to economic and environmental sustainability. It is all about people, planet and profit – though I don’t think profit captures it. But value does not start with a “p”, does it? But let us focus on people in this blogpost.

Networks have to substitute the missing uncle doctor. People from lower social or educational classes simply have a lower density and access to uncle doctors. Uncle doctor (or aunt doctor) hereby stand for a wise person, who can provide advice and help in all kinds of areas. Networks can act as an “uncle doctor substitute support system”.

// Us & between us

We essentially have us and what is between us: We could call us actors or agents and the between us a system or structure. Or in terms of network theory we have nods, connections and relations. Nodes are stations, connections are rails and the relations are trains travelling on rails between certain stations. We are nods connected to each other with certain kinds of relations.

These networks could and should strive for social sustainability. They key is to allow for changemakers and allow changemakers making change happen. Simplified we have two ingredients. Ingredient one: the person, actor, agent or nod: this entity needs to ask himself two questions: How can I help you? And: how can you help my network? Ingredient two: the system, structure or connections and relations. These need to encourage and enable interaction and exchange. Both together create a willingness and an ability to change.

// How to fish?

How does this look practically? As often: it depends. There are many ways to facilitate this. The goal is the creation of ability on the one hand and the usability on the other hand. The Zahnräder Network attempts to encourage as well as enable efficient and effective interaction by equiping its participants with knowledge to fish rather than the fish itself. And it provides a place – on- and offline – for structured interaction. More on Zahnräder in my blogpost for August.

// Shaping society

Ability and usability can be paired and focused on participating in and for a pluralistic and socially sustainable society. Networks can substitute the uncle doctor and contribute to social sustainability. In this society, no one must have the response – but everyone should feel responsable.

Zahnräder Network

// Goals

Zahnräder is an organization from Muslims for society. It is an enabling and encouraging platform which provides human, social and financial capital as well as motivation and credibility. The idea is to facilitate, to teach how to fish, not to give fish. Knowledge of all types is transferred – from tacit to explicit, individual to social, declarative, procedural, causal, conditional, relational to pragmatic knowledge. Similarly networks are built and a tertius iungens orientation (Obstfeld, 2005) of trying to connect people from your network with each other encouraged.

I generally ask people when they meet another person to think about two things:

  1. How can I help this person?
  2. How can this person help people in my network?

This is a mentality shift of always attempting to help everyone around you which I experienced in Oxford from so many of my colleagues. It is a wonderful and helpful way of approaching others. And it benefits Zahnräder, too.

Ability Usability
Internal Human Capital Cultural Capital, Motivation
External Social Capital Financial Capital, Credibility

Zahnräder transforms individual energy into collective movement. Together, the Räder – wheels or gears – create change in and for society. We are functioning thereby as a complement, not a substitute to existing organizations – enabling & encouraging changemakers.

// Structure

Currently, over 60 people are involved in the organization of Zahnräder. Communication is primarily online via skype, basecamp and email. We are organized in a matrix-like organization with functional groups on the horizontal and working groups on the vertical axis. Functional groups are inter alia finance, communication and IT. Working groups are the conference team and ZahnräderX local teams.

// The national conference

The national conference is currently the heart of Zahnräder. Over 100 participants come together – all of them as producers and no one just as a consumer. It is all about sharing: sharing knowledge, sharing your network, sharing what drives you, your goals, your ambitions, your vision. Participants speak about their projects, receive feedback, knowledge. Some join projects they encounter some recommend it to their friends.

// Quo vadis?

We managed to shift from a starting phase to a growth phase. We intend to have over 120 Zahnräder involved in the organization primarily by extending our functional and working groups. The idea is to be sustainable internally and provide sustainable services externally. From October onwards, we are aiming to have a Human Resource and from December onwards an Internal Communication functional group. Also, we plan to establish a Zahnräder think tank.

socio-academic entrepreneurship. the term.

I was asked a couple of times where I got this term from: “socio-academic entrepreneurship” or “socio-academic entrepreneur”. Well, I coined in when researching the interaction of academic entrepreneurs and potential academic entrepreneurs at the University of Oxford. Somehow, I felt that research does not just – or primarily – follow Mertonian norms. And some academics specifically seemed to focus on socio-academic teaching, researching and “entrepreneuring”. This does not mean that they neglected fundamental research (and I strongly believe in the value of fundamental research, too).

I felt, that both ability and motivation were and are often embedded in a new symbiotic nature. Rather than a social entrepreneur trained in academic knowledge or an academic entrepreneur commercializing research through a technology transfer with some social attributes, the socio-academic entrepreneur employs consciously academic research to become a social entrepreneur.

// A symbiotic creation

Academic knowledge hereby does not just enable, and the social motivation does not just encourage; the symbiotic creation leads to a shift in the academic and social practice itself. Rather than acting with Mertonian disinterest socio-academic entrepreneurs act with specific social interests utilizing entrepreneurial means. They form a symbiotic creation and are not a substitute but an enriching compliment in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

// Ambidextrous innovators

Academic knowledge does not just enable, and the social motivation does not just encourage; the symbiotic creation leads to a shift in the academic and social practice itself. Socio-academic entrepreneurs will have to be ambidextrous. They will not only be changemakers but equally conscious preservers. They will have to balance themselves internally and balance themselves externally with respect to the academic community. This is the destiny innovators suffer.

socio-academic entrepreneurship (VII/VII)

Links to the other parts of this series of blogposts on socio-academic entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

This bibliography completes the series of blogposts in July.

// Bibliography

Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L. & Rumbley, L. E. (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. A Report Prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Clark, B.R. (1998) Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organizational Pathways of Transformation. Pergamon: Oxford.

Etzkowitz, H. (1983) Entrepreneurial Scientists and Entrepreneurial Universities in American Academic Science, Minerva 21: 2-3, pp. 198-233.

Etzkowitz, H. (2003) Research groups as ‘quasi firms’: the invention of the entrepreneurial university, Research policy, 32: 1, pp. 109-121.

Etzkowitz, H.  & Leydesdorff, L. (2000) The dynamics of innovation: from National Systems and ‘‘Mode 2’’ to a Triple Helix of university- industry–government relations, Research Policy 29:2, pp. 109-123.

Freeman, C. (1991) Networks of Innovators: A Synthesis of Research Issues, Research policy, 20:4, pp. 499-514.

Gartner,W.B., 1988. ‘‘Who is an entrepreneur?’’ is the wrong question, American Journal of Small Business, 12:1, pp. 11-32.

Granovetter, M. (1973) The Strength of Weak Ties, American Journal of Sociology, 78:6, pp. 1360-1380.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1993) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Isis Innovation. www.isis-innovation.com

Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/centres/skoll/about/Pages/whatisse.aspx

Merton, R. K. (1942) The Normative Structure of Science. In Storer, N. (Ed.) The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations, pp. 267–278. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Nichols, A. (2006) Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Change, Oxford: OUP.

Nicolaou, N., & Birley, S. (2003). Academic networks in a trichotomous categorisation of university spinouts, Journal of Business Venturing, 18:3, pp. 333–359.

O’Shea, R. P., Chugh, H. & Allen, T. J. (2008) Determinants and consequences of university spinoff activity: a conceptual framework, Journal of Technology Transfer, 33:6, pp. 653-666.

Porter, M. E. (1990) The Competitive Advantage of Nations. New York: Free Press.

Scholte, J. A. (2005) Globalization: a critical introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tushman, M. & O’Reilly, C. (2004) Winning Through Innovation: A Practical Guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Wenger, E. & Snyder, W. (2000) Communities of practice: the organizational frontier, Harvard Business Review, 78:1, pp. 139-145

Woolgar, Steve (1988) Science: the very idea, London: Routledge.

socio-academic entrepreneurship (VI/VII)

// Conclusion

Academic entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs have already existed for a long time, yet within the last decades we have witnessed an increase in numbers and impact as well as an enhanced research focus and discourse on these phenomena.

Equally, many academics already act with a social purpose and social entrepreneurs employ academic knowledge. These blogposts have argued that a next wave of new entrepreneurs is and increasingly will be what we have entitled socio-academic entrepreneurs.

They form a symbiotic creation rather than merely a sum of academic and social entrepreneurial characteristics and are not a substitute but rather an enriching compliment in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Which way ought we to go from here? The cat in the pre-blog post is right: It depends a good deal on where we want to get to.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

socio-academic entrepreneurship (V/VII)

// Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs

Socio-academic entrepreneurs are not social entrepreneurs who use academic knowledge. Academic knowledge is more than just enabling socially motivated entrepreneurs. They are also not academic entrepreneurs who are encouraged by social motivation. Socio-academic entrepreneurs are hence neither only based on an academic ability linked to a social motivation, nor are they only built on social motivation which is channeled through academic knowledge. Both ability and motivation are embedded in a new symbiotic nature.

Rather than a social entrepreneur trained in academic knowledge or an academic entrepreneur commercializing research through a technology transfer with some social attributes, the socio-academic entrepreneur employs consciously academic research to become a social entrepreneur. Academic knowledge does not just enable, and the social motivation does not just encourage; the symbiotic creation leads to a shift in the academic and social practice itself.

As many scholars (inter alia Woolgar, 1988) emphasized science and technology are not neutral entities following Mertonian (1942) norms of universalism, communism, disinterestedness and organized skepticism. Socio-academic entrepreneurs may move science and more generally research and more generally knowledge and more generally conduct in the social direction. Rather than acting as if disinterested, which research in general is not, socio-academic entrepreneurs act with specific social interests and using entrepreneurial means. Socio-academic entrepreneurs will work alongside other academics.

They will be criticized for doing improper research. Others will be grateful that a part of academia moves into a specific, socially defined, direction, which many academics have done before, as well as employing it entrepreneurially, which in this symbiosis only few have done. Importantly, socio-academic entrepreneurs will have to define this direction and criteria for socio-academic research. Disinterestedness, albeit not true, appears to be universally, i.e. commonly, accepted. Social, in its normative character, may not gain the same universality in its outlook, yet possibly universality as a basic intent.

Research may move along various basic foundations, i.e. for example on a research stream based on social interestedness and the other on (attempted) disinterestedness. Finally, this socially encouraged academic research leads to entrepreneurial endeavours, it does not wait for but creates opportunities for change. Whereas many academics are researchers, teachers, consultants and a few entrepreneurs, some will become socio-academic entrepreneurs after and alongside being an academic.

In Winning through Innovation, Tushman and O’Reilly (2004) assert that organizations need to balance continuity and change – so called ambidextrous organizations which celebrate simultaneously stability and incremental change on the one hand and discontinuous change on the other hand. Socio-academic entrepreneurs have to be ambidextrous, too. They will not only be changemakers but equally conscious preservers. They will have to balance themselves internally and balance themselves with respect to the academic community externally. They may form a group, possibly what could be referred to as networks (cf. e.g. Granovetter, 1973 and Freeman, 1991), and communities of practice (CoP, cf. Lave, & Wenger, 1993 or Wenger & Snyder, 2000) building clusters (cf. Porter, 1990) with the wider community.

What is so special about socio-academic entrepreneurs? It is not that they employ their research socially nor that they do research keeping a social conscious – both is already done. Rather the social in academia becomes an end and entrepreneurship a means leading to socio-academic entrepreneurs as agents of change. They will have to keep a fine balance between the social and the political and whilst they will increase in scale, they will not form a majority – neither in the academic nor in the entrepreneurial community. Yet, socio-academic entrepreneurs will form a potent synergy of knowledge and motivation leading to creative (academic and social) entrepreneurial construction.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

socio-academic entrepreneurship (IV/VII)

// Social entrepreneurs

According to the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship “[s]ocial entrepreneurship is about innovative, market-oriented approaches underpinned by a passion for social equity and environmental sustainability. Ultimately, social entrepreneurship is aimed at transformational systems change that tackles the root causes of poverty, marginalization, environmental deterioration and accompanying loss of human dignity.

It displays three characteristics, namely

– sociality, i.e. it is directed towards public interest,

– innovation and

– market orientation.

Famous social entrepreneurs are, for example, Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing practice, Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and Wendy Kopp, who founded Teach for America.

Social entrepreneurship as a term and practice became prominent in the second half of the last century, particularly promoted by Bill Drayton who founded Ashoka, although social entrepreneurship evidently existed before. It has reached both academic research and teaching in various institutions and, according to Nicholls amongst others (2006, p. 2), “emerged as a global phenomenon” in recent years.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

socio-academic entrepreneurship (III/VII)

// Academic entrepreneurs

According to the report prepared by Altbach, Reisberg and Rumbley (2009, p. iii) for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education: “An academic revolution has taken place in higher education in the past half century marked by transformations unprecedented in scope and diversity.” Part of this transformation is the emergence of what Etzkowitz (1983) and Clark (1998) amongst others call the entrepreneurial university (character). Etzkowitz (2003, p.112) sees the entrepreneurial university as “a natural incubator, providing support structures for teachers and students to initiate new ventures: intellectual, commercial and conjoint.” Universities face a new role and self-understanding of economic and social development and are part of a triple-helix of linkages between university, government and industry (cf. e.g. Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000).

Increased spinoff activities are possibly the most prominent face of this entrepreneurial nature especially after many countries have changed their legislation similar in nature to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Nicolaou and Birley (2003) distinguish between three types of spinoffs, namely orthodox, where both the academic and the technology spin off from the institution, hybrid, where the academic remains with the institution holding a part-time position with the new company but the technology is spin out, and technology, where the technology spins out and the academic has no further connection with the new company apart from potentially having an equity stake. Drawing from this definition, O’Shea, Chugh and Allen (2008, p. 655) assert that a university spinoff involves “[t]he transfer of a core technology from an academic institution into a new company” and that “[t]he founding member(s) may include the inventor academic(s) who may or may not be currently affiliated with the academic institution.”

At the University of Oxford the technology transfer company Isis Innovation Ltd., established in 1988 and owned by the University, is since 1997 “responsible for creating spin-out companies based on academic research generated within and owned by the University of Oxford.” Spinoff activity is, according to Tom Hockaday, Managing Director of Isis Innovation, “very much a collaborative process” (own interview) between academic entrepreneurs and Isis. Technology transfer companies at various universities expanded immensely and are one indicator of the increase of academic entrepreneurs.

Yet academic entrepreneurship is not limited to an entrepreneurial faculty. Entrepreneurial University Leadership Programmes’ like the one newly created in 2010 by the Saïd Business School are not only focused on how to encourage academic entrepreneurs but how to shape entrepreneurial academic institutions. Academic entrepreneurship in this broadened sense encompasses research, teaching, organization or more general: exchange; in other words: the creation of an enabling and encouraging entrepreneurial environment which facilitates interaction between and action of people.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

socio-academic entrepreneurship (II/VII)

// Socio-Academic Entrepreneurship – Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs are difficult to define (cf. for an extensive discussion inter alia Gartner, 1988). Yet, as Scholte (2005) pointed out, whilst “definition is not everything, […] everything involves definition.” For the purpose of these blogposts, entrepreneurs are conceived as people who undertake endeavours in pursuit of opportunities.

This merely is an – arguably (too) extensive – classification, not a judgment of who are the new entrepreneurs. The newness of new entrepreneurs in contrast to entrepreneurs in general, is due to either an increase in numbers and/or in impact; it is not just a prescriptive proclamation: who ought these new entrepreneurs be?; but a descriptive statement: these are or will be the new entrepreneurs – which at the same time does not infer that others are not entrepreneurs anymore.

These new entrepreneurs, these blogposts will argue, are complements not substitutes. Or, in terms of neoclassical economics: demand for these new entrepreneurs is high – quantity-supply has to increase; and: demand for more shaping is high – quality-supply has to increase. Yet, while the question formally is descriptive in nature, these blogposts will argue, that these new entrepreneurs are not only increasing in numbers as well as impact, it will also focus on the prescriptive side of the development asserting that they should be some of the new entrepreneurs. These blogposts do not, however, claim that socio-academic entrepreneurs will form the majority of entrepreneurs nor the group with the highest impact, but there will be increased agents of change of this kind – worth focusing on.

So, who are these new entrepreneurs? They are a symbiotic creation between the social and the academic: socio-academic entrepreneurs forming socio-academic entrepreneurship. They are more than just social entrepreneurs using academic knowledge or academic entrepreneurs acting socially. Five blogposts more to come: Firstly and secondly we will consider academic and social entrepreneurs respectively. Thirdly, we will focus on socio-academic entrepreneurs. Fourthly, we will  conclude. Fifthly, we will provide the bibliography. Enjoy.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary I/VII
Introduction II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs V/VII
Conclusion VI/VII
Bibliography VII/VII

socio-academic entrepreneurship (I/VII)

// ENTREPRENEURS – AGENTS OF CHANGE

Changing of the guard. New entrepreneurs.

// Socio-Academic Entrepreneurship – Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs

Academic entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs have already existed for a long time, yet within the last decades we have witnessed an increase in numbers and impact as well as an enhanced research focus and discourse on these phenomena. Many academics already act with a social purpose and social entrepreneurs employ academic knowledge.

Yet, a next wave of new entrepreneurs is and increasingly will be what we entitle socio-academic entrepreneurs. Both ability and motivation are embedded in a new symbiotic nature. Rather than a social entrepreneur trained in academic knowledge or an academic entrepreneur commercializing research through a technology transfer with some social attributes, the socio-academic entrepreneur employs consciously academic research to become a social entrepreneur.

Academic knowledge does not just enable, and the social motivation does not just encourage; the symbiotic creation leads to a shift in the academic and social practice itself. Rather than acting with Mertonian disinterest socio-academic entrepreneurs act with specific social interests utilizing entrepreneurial means. They form a symbiotic creation and are not a substitute but an enriching compliment in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Edit – links to further parts on socio-academic entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change: Summary  I/VII
Introduction  II/VII
Academic Entrepreneurs  III/VII
Social Entrepreneurs   IV/VII
Socio-Academic Entrepreneurs  V/VII
Conclusion  VI/VII
Bibliography  VII/VII